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Litany of Loreto - Spiritual Vessel

Thursday, February 10, 2011
Visiting Lourdes and other Marian shrines one is often struck by the sheer volume, and indeed, variety of the statues representing Our Lady. Some are very beautiful, others have been known to draw less favourable comments. A regular visitor to Knock as a small boy, I would always be drawn to the ‘Holy Water Mary’s’, as I called them. You may recall (perhaps with a shudder) these plastic vessels which could be filled with Holy Water. Filled to the brim, the screw-top crown didn’t always do its job and it was rather an effort to ‘get Mary home’ without ‘leaking’. I would jealously guard this precious cargo - it always seemed a bit better than the Holy Water one got in England - where, awaiting it in my bedroom was a porcelain water stoop of deplorable design. It would be fair to say that I wasn’t overly impressed by the container: it was the precious contents that mattered.

Thinking upon Our Lady, however, one is perhaps struck by the tremendous range of theological meaning the phrase ‘Spiritual Vessel’ can convey. As spiritual we mean that within, that which is not apparent to the senses but is of the soul. From the moment of her conception Mary was full of grace and preserved from all stain of Original Sin. This purity allowed within her a fullness of sanctifying grace which could never be 'leaked' or lost. This fullness of grace, foreshadowed in the scriptures, would prepare her to be a vessel not only of the Spirit but of the Word made flesh. It was in her supernatural perfections that Our Lady gained an inward beauty totally unique in human history, and as that most worthy, spiritual, vessel, became the Mother of Christ and of His Church. It was this fullness of grace that allowed her to watch her Son grow and flourish and ultimately which gave her the strength to watch Him suffer and die for us. She kept all such things and “pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Finally, such was her blessed state that she was assumed into Heaven, body and soul, to be united with her Son as the Queen of Heaven.

In all these momentous occasions she never faltered in love of her Son. She cared nothing for praise or adulation but lived only to serve and to praise Him. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Luke 1:46-47). In her exalted state she continues to do just this and asks nothing more than that we do the same, knowing that only God can fill and satisfy the soul which was made by Him and for Him. We sometimes feel that we are losing our ‘spiritual contents’ as we journey, but Mary shows us in the pattern of her life the example we must follow, as the preeminent member, the ‘exemplary realization’ of the Church. None can ever really begin to convey the beauty of Mary’s soul and all words fail to convey adequately that purity and sanctity, but the title ‘Spiritual Vessel’ can give us a many layered meditation, whereby we can begin to ponder upon this spiritual richness and its significance for us all. Ad Iesum per Mariam.

Graham Hunt OP


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